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Ralph, FM, Prather KA, Cayan D, Spackman JR, DeMott P, Dettinger M, Fairall C, Leung R, Rosenfeld D, Rutledge S, Waliser D, White AB, Cordeira J, Martin A, Helly J, Intrieri J.  2016.  CalWater field studies designed to quantify the roles of atmospheric rivers and aerosols in modulating US West Coast precipitation in a changing climate. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 97:1209-1228.   10.1175/bams-d-14-00043.1   AbstractWebsite

The variability of precipitation and water supply along the U.S. West Coast creates major challenges to the region’s economy and environment, as evidenced by the recent California drought. This variability is strongly influenced by atmospheric rivers (ARs), which deliver much of the precipitation along the U.S. West Coast and can cause flooding, and by aerosols (from local sources and transported from remote continents and oceans) that modulate clouds and precipitation. A better understanding of these processes is needed to reduce uncertainties in weather predictions and climate projections of droughts and floods, both now and under changing climate conditions.To address these gaps, a group of meteorologists, hydrologists, climate scientists, atmospheric chemists, and oceanographers have created an interdisciplinary research effort, with support from multiple agencies. From 2009 to 2011 a series of field campaigns [California Water Service (CalWater) 1] collected atmospheric chemistry, cloud microphysics, and meteorological measurements in California and associated modeling and diagnostic studies were carried out. Based on the remaining gaps, a vision was developed to extend these studies offshore over the eastern North Pacific and to enhance land-based measurements from 2014 to 2018 (CalWater-2). The dataset and selected results from CalWater-1 are summarized here. The goals of CalWater-2, and measurements to date, are then described.CalWater is producing new findings and exploring new technologies to evaluate and improve global climate models and their regional performance and to develop tools supporting water and hydropower management. These advances also have potential to enhance hazard mitigation by improving near-term weather prediction and subseasonal and seasonal outlooks.

Stewart, IT, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2004.  Changes in snowmelt runoff timing in western North America under a 'business as usual' climate change scenario. Climatic Change. 62:217-232.   10.1023/B:CLIM.0000013702.22656.e8   AbstractWebsite

Spring snowmelt is the most important contribution of many rivers in western North America. If climate changes, this contribution may change. A shift in the timing of springtime snowmelt towards earlier in the year already is observed during 1948 - 2000 in many western rivers. Streamflow timing changes for the 1995 - 2099 period are projected using regression relations between observed streamflow-timing responses in each river, measured by the temporal centroid of streamflow (CT) each year, and local temperature (TI) and precipitation ( PI) indices. Under 21st century warming trends predicted by the Parallel Climate Model (PCM) under business-as-usual greenhouse-gas emissions, streamflow timing trends across much of western North America suggest even earlier springtime snowmelt than observed to date. Projected CT changes are consistent with observed rates and directions of change during the past five decades, and are strongest in the Pacific Northwest, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains, where many rivers eventually run 30 - 40 days earlier. The modest PI changes projected by PCM yield minimal CT changes. The responses of CT to the simultaneous effects of projected TI and PI trends are dominated by the TI changes. Regression-based CT projections agree with those from physically-based simulations of rivers in the Pacific Northwest and Sierra Nevada.

Cayan, DR, Kammerdiener SA, Dettinger MD, Caprio JM, Peterson DH.  2001.  Changes in the onset of spring in the western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 82:399-415.   10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0399:citoos>2.3.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Fluctuations in spring climate in the western United States over the last 4-5 decades are described by examining changes in the blooming of plants and the timing of snowmelt-runoff pulses. The two measures of spring's onset that are employed are the timing of first bloom of lilac and honeysuckle bushes from a long-term cooperative phenological network, and the timing of the first major pulse of snowmelt recorded from high-elevation streams. Both measures contain year-to-year fluctuations, with typical year-to year fluctuations at a given site of one to three weeks. These fluctuations are spatially coherent, forming regional patterns that cover most of the west. Fluctuations in lilac first bloom dates are highly correlated to those of honeysuckle, and both are significantly correlated with those of the spring snowmelt pulse. Each of these measures, then, probably respond to a common mechanism. Various analyses indicate that anomalous temperature exerts the greatest influence upon both interannual and secular changes in the onset of spring in these networks. Earlier spring onsets since the late 1970s are a remarkable feature of the records, and reflect the unusual spell of warmer-than-normal springs in western North America during this period. The warm episodes are clearly related to larger-scale atmospheric conditions across North America and the North Pacific, but whether this is predominantly an expression of natural variability or also a symptom of global warming is not certain.

Stewart, IT, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2005.  Changes toward earlier streamflow timing across western North America. Journal of Climate. 18:1136-1155.   10.1175/jcli3321.1   AbstractWebsite

The highly variable timing of streamflow in snowmelt-dominated basins across western North America is an important consequence, and indicator, of climate fluctuations. Changes in the timing of snowmelt-derived streamflow from 1948 to 2002 were investigated in a network of 302 western North America gauges by examining the center of mass for flow, spring pulse onset dates, and seasonal fractional flows through trend and principal component analyses. Statistical analysis of the streamflow timing measures with Pacific climate indicators identified local and key large-scale processes that govern the regionally coherent parts of the changes and their relative importance. Widespread and regionally coherent trends toward earlier onsets of springtime snowmelt and streamflow have taken place across most of western North America, affecting an area that is much larger than previously recognized. These timing changes have resulted in increasing fractions of annual flow occurring earlier in the water year by 1-4 weeks. The immediate (or proximal) forcings for the spatially coherent parts of the year-to-year fluctuations and longer-term trends of streamflow timing have been higher winter and spring temperatures. Although these temperature changes are partly controlled by the decadal-scale Pacific climate mode [Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO)], a separate ani significant part of the variance is associated with a springtime warming trend that spans the PDO phases.

Venrick, EL, McGowan JA, Cayan DR, Hayward TL.  1987.  Climate and chlorophyll-a: long-term trends in the central North Pacific Ocean. Science. 238:70-72.   10.1126/science.238.4823.70   AbstractWebsite

Since 1968 a significant increase in total chlorophyll a in the water column during the summer in the central North Pacific Ocean has been observed. A concomitant increase in winter winds and a decrease in sea surface temperature suggest that long-period fluctuations in atmospheric characteristics have changed the carrying capacity of the central Pacific epipelagic ecosystem.

Westerling, AL, Gershunov A, Brown TJ, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2003.  Climate and wildfire in the western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 84:595-+.   10.1175/bams-84-5-595   AbstractWebsite

A 21-yr gridded monthly fire-starts and acres-burned dataset from U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs fire reports recreates the seasonality and interannual variability of wildfire in the western United States. Despite pervasive human influence in western fire regimes, it is striking how strongly these data reveal a fire season responding to variations in climate. Correlating anomalous wildfire frequency and extent with the Palmer Drought Severity Index illustrates the importance of prior and accumulated precipitation anomalies for future wildfire season severity. This link to antecedent seasons' moisture conditions varies widely with differences in predominant fuel type. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that the relationship between wildfire season severity and observed moisture anomalies from antecedent seasons is strong enough to forecast fire season severity at lead times of one season to a year in advance.

Scavia, D, Field JC, Boesch DF, Buddemeier RW, Burkett V, Cayan DR, Fogarty M, Harwell MA, Howarth RW, Mason C, Reed DJ, Royer TC, Sallenger AH, Titus JG.  2002.  Climate change impacts on US coastal and marine ecosystems. Estuaries. 25:149-164.   10.1007/bf02691304   AbstractWebsite

Increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases projected for the 21st century are expected to lead to increased mean global air and ocean temperatures. The National Assessment of PotentiaI Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST 2001) was based on a series of regional and sector assessments. This paper is a summary of the coastal and marine resources sector review of potential impacts on shorelines, estuaries, coastal wetlands, coral reefs, and ocean margin ecosystems. The assessment considered the impacts of several key drivers of climate change: sea level change; alterations in precipitation patterns and subsequent delivery of freshwater, nutrients, and sediment; increased ocean temperature; alterations in circulation patterns; changes in frequency and intensity of coastal storms; and increased levels of atmospheric CO(2). Increasing rates of sea-level rise and intensity and frequency of coastal storms and hurricanes over the next decades will increase threats to shorelines, wetlands, and coastal development. Estuarine productivity will change in response to alteration in the timing and amount of freshwater, nutrients, and sediment delivery. Higher water temperatures and changes in freshwater delivery will alter estuarine stratification, residence time, and eutrophication. Increased ocean temperatures are expected to increase coral bleaching and higher CO(2) levels may reduce coral calcification, making it more difficult for corals to recover from other disturbances, and inhibiting poleward shifts. Ocean warming is expected to cause poleward shifts in the ranges of many other organisms, including commercial species, and these shifts may have secondary effects on their predators and prey. Although these potential impacts of climate change and variability will vary from system to system, it is important to recognize that they will be superimposed upon, and in many cases intensify, other ecosystem stresses (pollution, harvesting, habitat destruction, invasive species, land and resource use, extreme natural events), which may lead to more significant consequences.

Cayan, DR, Bromirski PD, Hayhoe K, Tyree M, Dettinger MD, Flick RE.  2008.  Climate change projections of sea level extremes along the California coast. Climatic Change. 87:S57-S73.   10.1007/s10584-007-9376-7   AbstractWebsite

California's coastal observations and global model projections indicate that California's open coast and estuaries will experience rising sea levels over the next century. During the last several decades, the upward historical trends, quantified from a small set of California tide gages, have been approximately 20 cm/century, quite similar to that estimated for global mean sea level. In the next several decades, warming produced by climate model simulations indicates that sea level rise (SLR) could substantially exceed the rate experienced during modem human development along the California coast and estuaries. A range of future SLR is estimated from a set of climate simulations governed by lower (B1), middle-upper (A2), and higher (A1fi) GHG emission scenarios. Projecting SLR from the ocean warming in GCMs, observational evidence of SLR, and separate calculations using a simple climate model yields a range of potential sea level increases, from 11 to 72 cm, by the 2070-2099 period. The combination of predicted astronomical tides with projected weather forcing, El Nino related variability, and secular SLR, gives a series of hourly sea level projections for 2005-2100. Gradual sea level rise progressively worsens the impacts of high tides, surge and waves resulting from storms, and also freshwater floods from Sierra and coastal mountain catchments. The occurrence of extreme sea levels is pronounced when these factors coincide. The frequency and magnitude of extreme events, relative to current levels, follows a sharply escalating pattern as the magnitude of future sea level rise increases.

Cayan, DR, Maurer EP, Dettinger MD, Tyree M, Hayhoe K.  2008.  Climate change scenarios for the California region. Climatic Change. 87:S21-S42.   10.1007/s10584-007-9377-6   AbstractWebsite

To investigate possible future climate changes in California, a set of climate change model simulations was selected and evaluated. From the IPCC Fourth Assessment, simulations of twenty-first century climates under a B1 (low emissions) and an A2 (a medium-high emissions) emissions scenarios were evaluated, along with occasional comparisons to the A1fi (high emissions) scenario. The climate models whose simulations were the focus of the present study were from the Parallel Climate Model (PCM1) from NCAR and DOE, and the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1 model (GFDL). These emission scenarios and attendant climate simulations are not "predictions," but rather are a purposely diverse set of examples from among the many plausible climate sequences that might affect California in the next century. Temperatures over California warm significantly during the twenty-first century in each simulation, with end-of-century temperature increases from approximately +1.5 degrees C under the lower emissions B1 scenario in the less responsive PCM1 to +4.5 degrees C in the higher emissions A2 scenario within the more responsive GFDL model. Three of the simulations (all except the B1 scenario in PCM1) exhibit more warming in summer than in winter. In all of the simulations, most precipitation continues to occur in winter. Relatively small (less than similar to 10%) changes in overall precipitation are projected. The California landscape is complex and requires that model information be parsed out onto finer scales than GCMs presently offer. When downscaled to its mountainous terrain, warming has a profound influence on California snow accumulations, with snow losses that increase with warming. Consequently, snow losses are most severe in projections by the more responsive model in response to the highest emissions.

Peterson, DH, Cayan DR, Festa JF, Nichols FH, Walters RA, Slack JV, Hager SE, Schemel LE.  1989.  Climate variability in an estuary: effects of reverflow on San Francisco Bay. Aspects of climate variability in the Pacific and the western Americas. ( Peterson DH, Ed.).:419-442., Washington, DC, U.S.A.: American Geophysical Union Abstract
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Westerling, AL, Cayan DR, Brown TJ, Hall B, Riddle LG.  2004.  Climate, Santa Ana winds and autumn wildfires in southern California. EOS Trans. AGU. 85:289. Abstract
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Roche, JW, Rice R, Meng XD, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD, Alden D, Patel SC, Mason MA, Conklin MH, Bales RC.  2019.  Climate, snow, and soil moisture data set for the Tuolumne and Merced river watersheds, California, USA. Earth System Science Data. 11:101-110.   10.5194/essd-11-101-2019   AbstractWebsite

sWe present hourly climate data to force land surface process models and assessments over the Merced and Tuolumne watersheds in the Sierra Nevada, California, for the water year 2010-2014 period. Climate data (38 stations) include temperature and humidity (23), precipitation (13), solar radiation (8), and wind speed and direction (8), spanning an elevation range of 333 to 2987 m. Each data set contains raw data as obtained from the source (Level 0), data that are serially continuous with noise and nonphysical points removed (Level 1), and, where possible, data that are gap filled using linear interpolation or regression with a nearby station record (Level 2). All stations chosen for this data set were known or documented to be regularly maintained and components checked and calibrated during the period. Additional time-series data included are available snow water equivalent records from automated stations (8) and manual snow courses (22), as well as distributed snow depth and co-located soil moisture measurements (2-6) from four locations spanning the rain-snow transition zone in the center of the domain. Spatial data layers pertinent to snowpack modeling in this data set are basin polygons and 100 m resolution rasters of elevation, vegetation type, forest canopy cover, tree height, transmissivity, and extinction coefficient. All data are available from online data repositories (https://doi.org/10.6071/M3FH3D).

McGowan, JA, Cayan DR, Dorman LM.  1998.  Climate-ocean variability and ecosystem response in the northeast Pacific. Science. 281:210-217.   10.1126/science.281.5374.210   AbstractWebsite

The role of climatic variation in regulating marine populations and communities is not well understood. To improve our knowledge, the sign, amplitude, and frequency of climatic and biotic variations should be compared as a necessary first step. it is shown that there have been large interannual and interdecadal sea-surface temperature changes off the West Coast of North America during the past 80 years. Interannual anomalies appear and disappear rather suddenly and synchronously along the entire coastline. The frequency of warm events has increased since 1977. Although extensive, serial, biological observations are often incomplete, it is clear that climate-ocean variations have disturbed and changed our coastal ecosystems.

Aguado, E, Cayan D, Riddle L, Roos M.  1992.  Climatic fluctuations and the timing of West Coast streamflow. Journal of Climate. 5:1468-1483.   10.1175/1520-0442(1992)005<1468:cfatto>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Since about 1950 there has been a trend in the California Sierra Nevada toward a decreasing portion of the total annual streamflow occurring during April through July, while the streamflow during autumn and winter has increased. This trend not only has important ramifications with regard to water management, it also brings up the question of whether this represents a shift toward earlier release of the snowpack resulting from greenhouse warming. Therefore, the observed record has been examined in terms of relative influences of temperature and precipitation anomalies on the timing of streamflow in this region. To carry out this study, the fraction of annual streamflow (called the fractional streamflow) occurring in November-January (NDJ), February-April (FMA), and May-July (MJJ) at low, medium, and high elevation basins in California and Oregon was examined. Linear regression models were used to relate precipitation and temperature to the fractional streamflow at the three elevations for each season. Composites of monthly temperature and precipitation were employed to further examine the fractional streamflow in its high and low tercile extremes. Long time series of climatic and hydrologic data were also looked at to infer the causes in the trend toward earlier runoff. For the low-elevation basins, there is a dominant influence of precipitation on seasonal fractional streamflow. Middle-elevation basins exhibit a longer memory of precipitation and temperature in relation to their fractional streamflow. In-season precipitation is still the most important influence upon NDJ and FMA fractional streamflow; however, the influence of temperature in melting the snowpack is seen on MJJ fractional streamflow, whose strongest influence is FMA temperature. At higher elevations, prior-season precipitation exerts a greater influence than at low and middle elevations, and seasonal temperature anomalies have an effect on all seasonal streamflow fractions. There are several causes for the trend toward decreasing fractional streamflow in the spring and summer. Concomitant with the trend in the timing of streamflow was an increase in NDJ (most notably November) precipitation. There also has been a trend toward higher spring temperatures over most of the western United States, but since there has also been a trend toward decreasing temperatures in the southeast, we do not interpret this as a signal of anthropogenic warming. Other factors in the trend toward earlier streamflow may include a decrease in MJJ precipitation and an increase in August-October precipitation.

Brooks, BA, Bawden G, Manjunath D, Werner C, Knowles N, Foster J, Dudas J, Cayan D.  2012.  Contemporaneous Subsidence and Levee Overtopping Potential, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science. 10 AbstractWebsite

The levee system in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta helps protect freshwater quality in a critical estuarine ecosystem that hosts substantial agricultural infrastructure and a large human population. We use space-based synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) to provide synoptic vertical land motion measurements of the Delta and levee system from 1995 to 2000. We find that Delta ground motion reflects seasonal hydrologic signals superimposed on average subsidence trends of 3-20 mm/yr. Because the measurements are insensitive to subsidence associated with peat thickness variations over Delta-island length scales, it is most likely that InSAR rates reflect underlying Quaternary sedimentary column compaction. We combine InSAR rates with sea-level rise scenarios to quantify 21st century levee overtopping potential. If left unmitigated, it is likely that 50 to 100 years from now much of the levee system will subside below design thresholds.